You’re Okay By Me
Matthew, Luke and John record the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Matthew and Luke also record that a voice spoke from heaven, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NRSV).
It is easy to understand why God was pleased with his son. There is no evidence that Jesus gave his mother back-talk, ran around with the wrong crowd, or refused to eat what his mother placed before him. To the contrary, he had a reputation for enjoying foods he should not have.
Further, Jesus became a household name in his own time, started a world-wide religion, and never sinned. His ability to read Hebrew indicates he paid attention in school. Who wouldn’t be proud of a child like that? Jesus’ childhood makes ours look lack luster, no matter how angelic we were. Granted, he did wander away from his parents once, but only because he wanted to spend more time in God’s house (Luke 2:41-51). How can a parent correct a child for that?
Few of us are lucky enough to have such an exemplary childhood. It’s easy to gain a parent’s approval when one is as “perfect” as one’s parent. As young people we blunder, later wondering how our parents resisted the urge “to let us have it.” For some, the fear of losing a parent’s approval can be a sufficient motivator to keep them out of juvenile hot water. Is there not something inherent in us that strives to achieve our parents’ approval? What does it take to receive it?
There is an inner need which has us longing to hear our parents say, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” As a young boy, I was on the lookout for words or signs that indicated my parents considered me a child with whom they were well pleased. Years after my father’s death I wonder whether I would have his approval today. As a parent now, I wonder whether my children are waiting for an indication from me that I am well pleased with them.
Being a male, I was under the impression that this was a man’s issue. Books and articles have been written addressing the need men have to gain their father’s approval. In a recent conversation with a woman, I was cured of my ignorance when I learned that young women, too, seek the approval of their parents. What struck me was the realization that we may never outgrow this yearning. We seem to strive after it until we get it, regardless of our age. Who doesn’t long to hear from a parent, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased”?
I suspect some people seek their parents’ approval their entire lives, but never receive it. Pity the child who matures to adulthood never receiving his or her parents’ approval. No achievement, no advancement, no manner of personal integrity earns the affirmation, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” I have sympathy for those who bury their parents before hearing these words. They have been denied a powerful spiritual blessing which has been sought by our ancestors for centuries (Gen. 27: 34). The inability to affirm a child may reflect more upon the parent than the child.
Those who do not receive parental approval are not denied this blessing. We have a parent who approves of us whether our earthly parents are able to or not. We have received our heavenly Parent’s blessing. We have received God’s approval already. Unlike earthly parents, we do not need to merit our heavenly Parent’s blessing. We have received God’s approval before it occurred to us to ask. A...You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours,” the father speaks for God in The Forgiving Father (Lule 15:31, NRSV).
As human beings, we have limits to our love. Our love is conditional: we can be forgiving of some offenses to our integrity, but our forgiveness and love come to an end when our personal integrity has accommodated too many assaults.
God’s love is unconditional. It is not dependent upon how ethical we have been nor upon the scarcity of assaults upon God’s integrity. There are no limits to our heavenly Father’s embraces: AFor I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38,39).
God’s approval is beyond our ability to earn it, yet his affirmation is easiest to acquire. Confess that we haven’t merited God’s approval. When we do that, God bestows his approval as a crown of grace: A... all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14). Precisely when we feel lack luster in our youth, least deserving of an earthly parent’s approval, we hear our heavenly Parent say, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”